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Sacred Spaces: Portland, Ore.

Zion Lutheran Church (Credit: Tidza Causevic)

Zion Lutheran Church (Credit: Tidza Causevic)

Portland has always been a pioneer town, poised between the western United States and the Pacific Rim. When European settlers arrived, they swept in with Enlightenment ideas of improvement and industry, ultimately meaning removal of the indigenous peoples. Industrial methods were used to log the old growth forests and harness the mighty rivers forming a confluence here. Nowadays Portland has a reputation for being a "Green City," one that is well-planned and striving for harmony with its surrounding environment. It is these basic tenets, intrinsic to sustainable design, which are the same as those espoused by the Unitarian Universalists who were early immigrants to the city. The influence of their ideas has surely affected the "smart growth" development of the city. The old-growth forest still surrounding the city seems to retain its wildness -- encroaching upon the settlement like an ancient living being.

The Italian-born architect Pietro Belluschi is inextricably linked with Portland, having been connected with the city since the 1920s. In the 1940s, he set up his own firm in Portland, designing a series of sacred spaces that were humble yet profound. His new interpretation of Regional Modernism using local materials and simple gestures mirrored the forward thinking congregations with whom he collaborated, indelibly marking the sacred landscape of the city. Visiting these Belluschi spaces was a pilgrimage of sorts and most of these jewels remain intact. Zion Lutheran, which still retains its Gothic spire, and the more orthogonal Central Lutheran are wonderful havens in their respective neighborhoods. His influential tradition of the Northwest Regional Style continues, exemplified in the architecture of recent spaces like Jesuit LaStorta Chapel, which echoes his innovations in materiality and form.

From the grand majesty of Congregation Beth Israel to the humble modesty of the storefront Muslim Community Center, we hope you will enjoy your experience visiting sacred spaces in this still frontier town.

Deirdre Colgan
Executive Director, Sacred Space International
Chicago, 2010

Temple Beth Israel (Credit: Tidza Causevic)

Temple Beth Israel (Credit: Tidza Causevic)

Download the Portland Sacred Spaces Guide
The guide includes maps and two suggested tour routes. The following Sacred Spaces are featured:
• Central Lutheran Church
• Chapel of the Holy Trinity at LaStorta -- Loyola Jesuit Center
• Congregation Beth Israel
• First Unitarian Church of Portland
• International Rose Test Garden -- Washington Park
• Muslim Community Center of Portland
• National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother -- The Grotto, Marilyn Moyer Meditation Chapel & Servite Monastery Gardens
• Oregon Buddhist Temple
• Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
• Zion Lutheran Church

Download the Portland guide here (PDF).

Tell us about your experience on the tour or your favorite Sacred Space in Portland. Create a page in the God in America Faithbook or submit a video to WGBH Lab's Open Call or leave us a comment below.

About Sacred Space International
Sacred Space International was founded in 2002 by Suzanne Morgan to promote interfaith education and dialogue through the understanding of religious architecture. Morgan, a retired architect with expertise in liturgical design, started the organization in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent climate of social tension, cultural misunderstanding and fear. She conceived the idea of religious architecture as a catalyst for interfaith dialogue and education. Without promoting any single faith or tradition, the organization seeks to use the common language of architecture as an educational means to foster reciprocal respect, awareness and appreciation of the different traditions that comprise our pluralistic society.

Visit Sacred Space International's website for more information.


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Published October 11, 2010

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